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The Shade Avoidance Syndrome in Arabidopsis: The Antagonistic Role of Phytochrome A and B Differentiates Vegetation Proximity and Canopy Shade


Light limitation caused by dense vegetation is one of the greatest threats to plant survival in natural environments. Plants detect such neighboring vegetation as a reduction in the red to far-red ratio (R:FR) of the incoming light. The low R:FR signal, perceived by phytochromes, initiates a set of responses collectively known as the shade avoidance syndrome, intended to reduce the degree of current or future shade from neighbors by overtopping such competitors or inducing flowering to ensure seed production. At the seedling stage these responses include increased hypocotyl elongation. We have systematically analyzed the Arabidopsis seedling response and the contribution of phyA and phyB to perception of decreased R:FR, at three different levels of photosynthetically active radiation. Our results show that the shade avoidance syndrome, induced by phyB deactivation, is gradually antagonized by phyA, operating through the so-called FR-High Irradiance Response, in response to high FR levels in a range that simulates plant canopy shade. The data indicate that the R:FR signal distinguishes between the presence of proximal, but non-shading, neighbors and direct foliar shade, via a intrafamily photosensory attenuation mechanism that acts to suppress excessive reversion toward skotomorphogenic development under prolonged direct vegetation shade.

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